Why is the Titanic better known than the Lusitania?
It seems that the fate of the Titanic captured the imagination of the public much more than that of the Lusitania.
Yet it seems that the story of the Lusitania is more dramatic,if not more so.
They both ended up at the bottom of the ocean, of course, but whereas the Titanic met its end because of an iceberg, the Lusitania was torpedoed by a German submarine during the First World War.
And yet it was a passenger ship, and not involved in war work. Or was it? As you can see from the poster on the left, the sinking of the ship was used as wartime propaganda.
It’s also said, that because of the fact that amongst the 1198 dead there were 124 Americans, that the tragedy was responsible for the United States’ entry into the Great War.
This isn’t strictly true, as the States joined the conflict nearly a year after the sinking, but it certainly enhanced anti-German feelings in the US.
Although the loss of life was greater from the Titanic sinking, tragically, there were ninety four children who didn’t survive the torpedoing of the Lusitania, thirty one of them were babies (under two years old).
The Lusitania was just as luxurious as the Titanic and carried a glittering array of society personalities and celebrities of the time on its last voyage.
What’s more, the passengers had been warned by the Germans that they were in danger but most people ignored it. Here’s what the German embassy issued just two weeks before the sinking of the ship.
Many passengers were happy to disregard this notice. They assumed that when the ship arrived in the war zone it would receive an escort of fully-equipped war vessels. It didn’t. Just after lunchtime on 7th May, 1915, Captain Walther Schwieger, the commander of the German U-20 submarine, order a torpedo to be fired at the passenger liner. As the people aboard were leaving the palatial dining rooms, enjoying a post-lunch cigar, brandy or coffee, the ship was hit. Within eighteen minutes it was at the bottom of the ocean.
Like the Titanic, the Lusitania didn’t have enough lifeboats
Or at least, it did by the numbers but not in reality. This was because some of the lifeboats that were on the ship required assembly – there just wasn’t time for that. When the ship was torpedoed, she listed badly to one side. That meant that on one side of the vessel, the lifeboats hung over the deck and couldn’t be lowered into the ocean.
The Irish coast was in view but nevertheless people perished in huge numbers. There was panic – lifeboats were swamped with people, some became loose from their ropes and crashed into the sea. Some passengers simply leapt overboard, knowing that the ship was remain afloat for only a few minutes.
Help took several hours to arrive, by which time many people had drowned or succumbed to hypothermia because of the cold water.
Aboard the Lusitania on her final voyage were millionaires, aristocrats, famous actress, a well-known impresario, suffragettes, a well-known architect, a bigamist, an opera singer, an openly gay couple, an art dealers….
Their stories are as interesting, if not more so, that those who were aboard the Titanic. You can find out more from the books below.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR